Planners Vote to Study Huntington Beach Plan to Buy Small Airport

Times Staff Writer

The Huntington Beach Planning Commission, faced for the third time with a plan to close Meadowlark Airport for a new development, instead has ordered a study of the city’s possible purchase of the 1940s facility.

But a spokesman for the Nerio family--which has owned the general aviation airport for more than three decades but wants to develop the property--said family members “do not see that (selling) as a viable option.”

Dick Harlow, the spokesman for brothers Dick Y. and Art M. Nerio, said: “The family does not want to sell the property.”


About 200 people attended a public hearing Tuesday night on proposed development of the airport. At least 10 accidents in 10 years on its flight path have prompted some neighbors to call for the field’s closure.

Most of the two dozen speakers at the hearing, however, urged the city either to prevent any high-density commercial and residential development or to acquire and operate the 65-acre Meadowlark--one of two small airports remaining in Orange County.

Some Prefer Planes

Pilots bemoaned the airspace that would be lost with closure; the chairwoman of the city’s new historical resources board urged further archeological studies of “known burial sites” on the property, and residents who live as close as 300 feet from runways said they preferred the noise of planes to the traffic that the proposed commercial center and “planned community” of 1,000 units would generate.

The feasibility study, commissioners decided, should specifically explore funding alternatives--including those of state and federal governments--and any new requirements that might be imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates pilots, and the California Department of Transportation, which oversees airport facilities.

The Nerios have been protected from some regulatory requirements under a “grandfather clause.”

Commission members also directed the staff to develop plans for possible developments with maximum residential densities of 750 and 400 units.


A public hearing on the new options is scheduled Sept. 22 before the Planning Commission. The City Council will have to give final approval for any use and zoning changes.

Asked Redesignation

The Nerios on Tuesday night requested a redesignation of 65 acres of their property, which is immediately east of Bolsa Chica Street and is bounded by Warner Avenue on the south and Heil Avenue on the north.

The land’s zoning is now low-density residential. The family asked for mixed residential zoning on 50 acres, allowing 1,075 units, and 15 acres of commercial zoning.

The Nerios received City Council approval in 1980 to convert the privately owned airstrip to a trailer park. They apparently abandoned that plan but were denied a zone change a few years later for a mixed commercial and residential development.

The latest project would be built in phases, with the commercial center completed in 1991 and the residential portion finished in 1996. Nerio spokesman Dick Harlow told the planning commissioners that the “overall development” would be completed in “five to 10 years.”